Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Leading a People, Leading a Movement

We turn to the scriptures to learn about leadership, and two of the most successful leaders were Moses and Paul.  In the Old Testament, Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land.  After the resurrection of Jesus, Paul led a small band of missionaries from city to city around the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Both men changed the world because of their life's work, but their roles of leadership were much different.  Moses led a group of a million plus through the desert for 40 years, as they toggled between rebellion and repentance repeatedly.  Moses dealt with the gripes, complaints and mutinies that all leaders face.  He followed his father-in-law's suggestion of delegating responsibilities so that he could focus on listening to God and leading.

Many church leaders today face the same kinds of pressures and challenges, especially in large churches.  There is trouble from within and without, just as in the days of the Exodus.

Paul, on the other hand, was a different kind of leader.  He did not lead a people but a movement.  Although he started as part of the Jewish religious establishment, after Christ appeared to him, he had a new mission.  His mission was not to lead a large assembly, but to make disciples.  On his missionary journeys he went by land and sea to share Christ with Jews and Gentiles from Palestine to Rome.

Paul never led masses of people across the desert or across the street.  He challenged the lost to come to Christ and believers to take Jesus seriously.  He knew that, unlike Moses, he could rely on the Spirit of God to lead the new disciples.  The Holy Spirit would inspire these believers to change the world.  And they did.

Paul was not just leading a group of people, but a movement of God.  He cooperated with the Spirit of God, going where Jesus led him to go, sharing the truth of the Kingdom of God.  As he traveled about, he revisited cities where he had seen churches start.  He encouraged, he challenged, he warned, he rebuked, he rejoiced.  He also faced challenges to his leadership, threats from within and without. 

Moses' task was preservation, transportation and instruction of a people.  A few people came to believe in Yahweh because of the influence of the Jews.  But the emphasis was on getting the Jews out of Egypt and into Canaan.  Moses led them to the cusp of the new land and Joshua led them to conquer it.  Moses was a great leader.

Paul's ministry was to release the power of the Holy Spirit in lives and communities around the Mediterranean world.  God would lead the work.  It would be decentralized and viral.  It would spread just like Jesus described in the parable of the yeast.  Paul was a great leader.

As I learn lessons from these great men, I resonate with the model of leading a movement.  I want to be part of a movement of God.